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Heritage Talk: Wick Heritage and the Johnston Photography Collection: Ian Leith

Thursday 13 June 2019


Join Director of Wick Society, Ian Leith, for an engaging talk on Wick Heritage’s activities, with a special focus on their Johnston Photography Collection. The Johnston Collection represents the work of three generations of Caithness photographers who captured images of life in and around the area between 1863 and 1975. During that period they produced around a hundred thousand glass plate negatives. Of these, around fifty thousand survive and are held in trust by the Wick Society.

The Johnstons captured an era when Wick was the herring capital of Europe. The silver darlings (as the herring were fondly known) used to attract over a thousand boats which crowded the harbour during August and September each year, and thousands of migrant workers would swell the town’s population. They were photographed preparing the boats, setting sails, landing catches, and onshore in scenes of intense activity. Also photographed were teams of workers who gutted, cured, packed, and carted the salted herring for export across the world.

The collection represents a unique record of Wick’s development and its importance as a major herring fishing port, as well as unique scenes from many other areas of industry and general life across Caithness and Sutherland.